polyphasic sleep hacking

The moment I quit my day job and started freelancing full time, I realized I could finally indulge my desire for fucking with my sleep.

You see, I hate sleeping. Well, I’ve really come to love it in recent years, but I hate being a slave to anything, especially something that takes up so much of my time. With that time I could be:

  • Learning new languages
  • Knitting
  • Coding
  • Cleaning
  • Spending more time with friends
  • Meeting new people
  • Knitting
  • Being a lap for my cats
  • Earning money
  • More dance classes
  • Singing
  • Knitting
  • Rock climbing
  • Teaching yoga classes again
  • Learning new anything
  • Also…knitting (my friends are needy for my awesome yarn goods, I can’t blame them)

My point is that I can be doing more if I had more time. Years ago, I was introduced to the concept of polyphasic sleep where a person sleeps in several chunks throughout the day rather than in one, long phase as is normal for those with industrial age eight plus hour jobs (which are more like 10 to 12 hour jobs when you consider the time investment from getting ready, commuting, and winding down). The most common form of polyphasic sleep is biphasal: a person has a one to two hour nap in the afternoon. Siesta, anyone?

So I hit the Google and searched for “Every Man Sleep Cycle” which I originally came across in 2006 or 2007. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the same blog series that introduced me to the wonderful world of sleep hacking, but luckily for me, a lot more people had adopted that schedule, done lots of testing, and posted the data. The geek in me was delighted. Obviously.

Pulling up sleep data from my Jawbone UP band app, I was able to determine the range of hours that produce the most deep sleep. It’s an approximation because the UP band isn’t that sophisticated, but knowing my target range of 11pm – 2am or 12am to 3am gave me a good starting point. Every Man Sleep Cycle consists of one three to three and a half hours of sleep at night plus three 20 minute naps evenly spread throughout the day. The naps don’t have to be exactly at the same time every day so that gives me flexibility when I have on-site client meetings during normal nap periods.

I planned my naps 30 to 45 minutes after mealtimes since it usually takes that long for me to feel the slight drowsiness that occurs after eating a meal. I positioned myself to be in bed reading by 11pm, so I could fall asleep sometime between 11pm and 12am.

The first two days were rough, but I snuck in an extra nap to make due. By day three I had a flare-up and felt impossibly stupid.

Part of my pain management is ensuring I get an adequate amount of sleep. Without sleep, I’m more susceptible to pain and less able to recover gracefully. So stupid.

Not to be deterred, I’ve decided on a different approach: figure out my natural sleep schedule and enjoy it for a little while. Seriously, my entire life has been waking and sleeping on someone else’s schedule, be it for work or school. I’ve never done well with that and I think it’s time my body did what it needs to when it needs to. Then I’ll fuck it up again!

Taking a nap shortly after a meal was pretty enjoyable, so I plan on maintaining that habit moving forward as my circumstances allowed (I think clients might find it strange if I doze at the table after a lunch meeting, but since when has seeming strange ever stopped me?). In a few weeks, I’ll start shaving 15 minutes off my primary sleep phase week by week until I’m down to either the three to three and a half hour range or whatever optimal range my body agrees with.

The initial failure is for the best. Now that I have my house back to myself and I have a more flexible schedule, I’d rather focus on getting back to training with a vengeance. And for that, I’ll need decent sleep to recover.



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